Marching band GSI explores the marching arts through design


Hundreds of people clamored into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Aug. 12 to watch the finale performances in the annual Drum Corps International World Championship. The Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps swept onto the field accompanied with props of flowers and gates to elevate their show’s theme, “The Garden of Love.”

DaJuan Brooks, a graduate student instructor with the Michigan Marching Band, eagerly watched the performance from the stands. As the performers played a rendition of “Finding and Believing” by Pat Metheny, their blue costumes emblazoned with pink and orange flowers and green leaves glistened under the stadium lights — costumes that Brooks helped create.

The Bluecoats are revered in the musical sphere as one of the best drum corps organizations. Similar to marching bands, drum corps train and compete during the summer and consist of brass players, percussionists and color guard dancers. 

Earlier this year, Brooks was selected to be a 2023 Bluecoats fellow in costume design, scenic design and artistic direction. He said collaborating with the designers, performers and instructors was an unforgettable experience.

A photo of a person playing saxophone
DaJuan Brooks, a graduate student instructor with the Michigan Marching Band, designed this costume worn by a performer from Chromium Winds. (Photo courtesy of DaJuan Brooks)

“We have all of these incredible human beings that are able to come together and create these beautiful moments and things that will go out in the world and make someone feel something incredible about themselves. And that to me is what’s mostly important,” Brooks said.

Currently pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in wind band conducting at U-M, Brooks’ love for music started at an early age. When Brooks chose an instrument to learn in middle school, he decided to try clarinet, which his grandmother played. He said he fell in love with the instrument and performing with a band, and knew he wanted to pursue a career in music.  

In high school, Brooks started performing with the University of the Redlands, and eventually pursued a degree in clarinet performance at the University of Arizona, where he played in the marching band and in the pit orchestra for several musicals.

His second year in college, Brooks auditioned for and joined Blue Devils B, an open classroom corps for the Blue Devils organization, where he served as the head drum major.

No longer eligible to perform, Brooks said he was thrilled to receive the Bluecoats costume design fellowship so he could rejoin the Drum Corps International world and combine his passions for music and artistic design.

A photo of DaJuan Brooks
DaJuan Brooks

“When it’s your time to design and you’re a part of the processes, wherever you work, wherever you are in the world, in the marching arts, you’re able to take that expertise at the highest level possible and put it into your daily work. So, it’s pretty incredible,” Brooks said.

Brooks spent the month of June in Alliance, Ohio, as the drum corps began rehearsing and developing the show. Starting in July, the Bluecoats staff and 165 performers traveled more than 8,000 miles on a summer tour across the country, performing more than 20 times.

While the summer held countless cherished experiences, Brooks said, he is most thankful for the people and connections he made.

“The staff is world class. I mean, just the best human beings you could ever work with. They love their jobs and they put in so much time and effort,” Brooks said.

Of the key figures in Brooks’ summer with the Bluecoats, he credits his creative growth to his mentors Greg Lagola, the Bluecoats’ costume designer and choreographer, and Michael Raiford, the Bluecoats’ scenic designer.

“The two of them are such incredible human beings; like their spirits and their souls changed my DNA fibers of who I am as a human. They taught me how to create and express yourself in a new inventive way, but in a way that feels fresh and true to yourself,” Brooks said.

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The Bluecoats’ 2023 season ended on a high note when they won the silver medal at the DCI World Championship.

With the DCI season drawing to a close, Brooks is now preparing for his role as the director of Chromium Winds. An extension of the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, Chromium Winds is a wind ensemble that performs November through April.

Brooks has worked with Chromium Winds for three years. As the director, he works on costume design and program coordination.

Through working with the Blue Devils, the Bluecoats and the Cavaliers drum corps organizations, Brooks said, he has developed as an artist and musician, and as a person.

“My favorite thing about (DCI) is the collaboration. It’s this incredible opportunity, especially if your team is diverse,” Brooks said. “And people think diverse only means racially or identity wise. We want those two, but also diversity of experiences. And so, when this happens, you’re able to create something that is absolutely magical.”


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